Course Syllabus


Draft syllabus

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Semester & Location:

Fall 2020 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Neuroscience, Pre-Medicine/Health Science, Psychology


One year of biology and one course in either neuroscience, physiological psychology, or biological psychology at university level

Faculty Member:

Bettina Hornbøll Borch

Program Director:

Susana LS Dietrich

Time & Place:

Tuesdays and Fridays, 10.05-11.25, location TBD


Course Information and Purpose 

Course Description

This course focuses primarily on neuroplasticity from a neurobiological perspective. By the end of the course you have an understanding of the neural development of the human brain over time. With a special focus on the adult brain and neuroplasticity with respect to learning, aging; and brain repair following disease or acquired brain injury.

This course will focus on neuroplasticity from a predominantly behavioral perspective. Emphasis will be on:

  1. The neural development of the human brain 
  2. The adult brain and neuroplasticity with respect to both learning and aging
  3. Brain repair with focus on the adult brain 

Course Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify the principles of neuroplasticity from a neurobiological perspective;
  • Compare and contrast neuroplasticity across the lifespan;
  • Evaluate the role of neuroplasticity in pathology;
  • Appraise the aftermath of neuroplasticity in the context of neurodevelopmental disorder
  • Understanding neuroplasticity in the context of Neurodegenerative diseases 

The following topics will be covered during the course:

Theme 1: Principles of Neuroplasticity

  • Foundations of neural development
  • Principles of cerebral development
  • Experiential influences on neuronal plasticity
  • Plasticity of language network

Theme 2: Learning and Aging

  • Learning principles: Neural and behavioral factors
  • Memory
  • Normal brain aging
  • Brain aging and neurodegeneration
  • Biocultural perspectives on brain plasticity

Theme 3: Pathological factors and brain plasticity

  • Brain plasticity in early damage: Neurological, and developmental dimensions
  • Early Brain Insult: Principles of rehabilitation
  • Brain Injury Rehabilitation. Efficacy of treatment.
  • Clinical perspectives on neuroplasticity
  • Plasticity and atypical brain architectures
  • Neuroprotection and Neuroplasticity

Theme 4: Neurodegeneration & Psychiatric Disorders
Examples given:

* Alzheimers & Parkinsons disease
* Schizophrenia
* Autism
* Depression


Course Components

Course Readings

Selected Book Chapters

Anderson, V., Northam, E., Hendy, J., Wrennal, J.  (2006). Developmental Neuropsychology – A clinical approach. Psychology Press Taylor & Francis Group. (Class 3)

Kolb, B., Whishaw, I.Q. (2003). Fundamentals of human neuropsychology, Worth Publishers (Class 4)

Journal articles

Stiles J, Jernigan TL. (2010). The Basics of Brain Development. Neuropschol Rev. 20:327:348. (Class 2)

Raichle ME. (2008). A brief history of human brain mapping. Cell Press. Trends in Neurosciences. Vol. 32 No.2, (Class 5)

Kuhl, PK (2010). Brain Mechanisms in Early Language Acquisition. Neuron. September 9. 67(5): 713-727. (Class 6)

Kandel ER. (2001). The Molecular Biology of Memory Storage: A Dialogue Between Genes and Synapses.Review Neuroscience, Science, 2 November, Vol 293, 8 pp.1030-1038. (Class 7)

Martin SJ, Grimwood PD, Morris RG. (2000) Synaptic plasticity and memory: an evaluation of the hypothesis. Annu Rev Neurosci; 23 pp. 649-666/684-686/689-694 (Class 8)

Mills SEE, Nicolson KP, Smith BH. (2019). Chronic Pain: a review of its epidemiology and associated factors in population-based studies. British Journal of Anaesthisia, 123(2): e273-e283

Cole JH, Marioni RE, Harris SE, Deary IJ. (2019) Brain age and other bodily ’ages’: implications for neuropsychiatry. Molecular psychiatry, 24:266-281. (Class 10)

Gould TJ. (2010). Addiction and Cognition. Addiction Sci Clin Pract. 5(2): 4-14. (Class 11)

Prins M, Greco T, Alexander D, Giza CC. (2013). The Pathophysiology of traumatic brain injury at a glance. Disease Models & Mechanisms 6, 1307-1315. (Class 13)

Scheltens P, (2016) Alzheimer’s Disease. Lancet. Volume 388:505-17. (Class 17)

Kalia LV, Lang AE. (2015). Parkinson’s Disease. Lancet. Volume 386: 896-912. (Class 18)

Owen MJ, Sawa A, Mortensen PB. (2016). Schizophrenia. Lancet. Volume 388: 86-97. (Class 19)

Lord C, Elsabbagh M, Baird G, Veenstra-Vanderweel J. (2018). Autism. Lancet. Volume 392: 508-520. (Class 20)

Malhi GS, Mann JJ. (2018). Depression.Volume 392:2299-2312. (Class 21)


Field Studies

This course will be accompanied with field studies. Field studies connect DIS courses to organizations, companies, sites, and/or persons that are relevant to the course topic.


Field Study 1.



Field Study 2.


Examples of previous field study visits:

Center for Hjerneskade


Approach to Teaching

Lectures, class discussions, case studies, group presentations, critical analysis of research (individual/groups), field studies.


Expectations of the Students

Class attendance is mandatory. Students are expected to have done the reading for each class and to come with notes and questions for me and for the other students. This will give us material to generate conversation. It is also expected that during classes the students are able to discuss and to present topics and to respond questions providing references to our readings to support their points. Active participation during classes will constitute 20% of the grade. Finally, it is expected that students hand in their assignment on time (late papers will not be accepted) and that they contribute significantly to planned group activities.


To be eligible for a passing grade in this class, the students must complete all of the assigned work.


Assignments and Evaluation

The final grade for this course will be based on two tests, a research paper, two group presentations and participation.

Methods of Evaluation


How Evaluated

Due Date

Percentage of Grade

Participation (incl. group-presentation questions) and   Attendance



Throughout the course


Group Presentation



See course schedule





March 10 th


Poster Session



 April 21 & 24 th


Final Exam


April 28th






Participation (incl. group-presentation questions) and Attendance (20%):

Since class participation is a major component of the course, you will need to be present and participating to receive full credit.

Class participation includes, but it is not limited to: (see also evaluation criteria on Canvas)

  • critically evaluating the model/hypotheses suggested in readings
  • asking relevant questions that show understanding of the material – with tentative considerations/conclusions
  • being prepared for class and be ready to answer questions when asked
  • discussing implications as regards practical application and/or future research considerations
  • contributing to class activities

 Negative behavior will affect class participation, and it includes, but it is not limited to: (see also evaluation criteria on Canvas)

  • Repeated lateness to class
  • Use of electronic devices in class (unless requested or explicitly allowed by the instructor)
  • Disrespectful behavior toward classmates and/or instructor (both in direct, verbal interactions as well as in any written form)Negative behavior will affect the student´s participation grade.


Group Presentation / Journal Club (10%):

Groups of approx. 1-2 students will be presenting a topic in class (ca. 15 min.), after which there will be ca. 10 min. discussion with the rest of the class, answering prepared questions (see Group-presentation Questions below).

The presentation will focus on a research article published between 2016-2020 in a peer-reviewed Neuroscience or psychology journal. The article should be sent to the instructor and uploaded to canvas in the folder, latest four days before the presentation.

Contents should include (but not be limited to):

  • Introduction of the key issues of the topic
  • Method employed to investigate it
  • Identification and discussion of key findings/knowledge
  • Critique of methods and potentially of the findings
  • Discussion


Group-presentation Questions:

Students not presenting should demonstrate their participation by preparing discussion questions with focus on the presented topic; the questions should be based on the students own reflective considerations, can be open-ended or can be in form of thought-provoking comments, e.g. (with reference to the due reading), “It is mentioned in the text that a child adjusting to a developmental disorder and a child adjusting to an acquired brain injury have very different experiences. What might underlie the lack of a sense of "normality" in a child with a developmental disorder and the feeling of loss of "normality" in a child with an acquired brain injury?”; “The authors of this paper made no mention of clinical testing following the first stroke. Why might this be a source of dubiousness for the overall conclusions drawn in the paper?”


Midterm (25%):

See Canvas Course Calendar for details


Poster Session (20%):

Topics to be covered today:

Today’s class:

  • You will present a group poster on a particular neuroscientific method. There will be short presentations of your posters as in the context of a conference where you have to present your results and those of your team. Note: The lecturers will provide timely guidance for your choice of poster topic and questions. 

  • The “conference” will be followed by a discussion of the main types of methods used in neuroplasticity research, their advantages, and limitations. 

Guidelines for understanding the Methods and Discussion sections of scientific papers. 

Assignment for class:

Prior to class you will decide in small groups on which cognitive neuroscientific method your group would like to work and you will ask for advice about resources and applicability of methods in the study of neuroplasticity. More info on canvas.


Final Exam (25%):

See Canvas Course Calendar for details


In addition to the academic content of the written assignments(s), focus will also be placed on the structure, use of appropriate academic language, and writing skills.






You are expected to attend all DIS classes when scheduled. If you miss a class for any reason please contact the faculty no later than the day of the missed class. If you miss multiple classes the Director of Teaching and Learning, and the Director of Student Affairs will be notified and they will follow-up with you to make sure that all is well. Absences will jeopardize your grade and your standing at DIS. Allowances will be made in cases of illness, but in the case of multiple absences you will need to provide a doctor’s note.

Academic Honesty, Plagiarism, and Violating the Rules of an Assignment:

DIS expects that students abide by the highest standards of intellectual honesty in all academic work. DIS assumes that all students do their own work and credit all work or thought taken from others. Academic dishonesty will result in a final course grade of “F” and can result in dismissal. The students’ home universities will be notified. DIS reserves the right to request that written student assignments be turned in electronic form for submission to plagiarism detection software. See the Academic Handbook for more information, or ask your instructor if you have questions.


Policy on Late Papers:

Late papers will not be accepted.          


Policy for students who arrive late to class:

Students are expected to arrive punctual to class. One exception throughout the course will be given to students who arrive within 15 minutes after the beginning of class.


Use of laptops or phones in class 

To establish a positive learning environment, it is important that everyone is present in body and mind, and not distracted by technology or other disruptive behaviors. Therefore, students are not allowed to use laptops/Tablets/iPads in the classroom unless agreed upon for specified tasks such as article reading and/or for discussion purposes and/or note-taking. Cellular phones must be switched off during class. Disregard of these rule will have a very negative impact on the student participation grade.


Expectations and Code of Conduct:

  • Reading must be done prior to the class session
  • Since class participation is a major component of the course, you will need to be present and participating to receive full credit. Your grade will be negatively affected by unexcused absences and lack of participation.
  • Respectful behavior is expected toward classmates and instructor both in direct as in indirect (e.g. written interactions) interactions.
  • Classroom etiquette includes being respectful of one another’s opinions, listen to others and enter a dialogue in a constructive manner.

Disregard of Expectation and Code of Conduct will have a negative impact on the student participation grade.

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:

Course Summary:

Date Details